Sony's eBook Reader Is a Real Winner!

Not too many reviewers have seen Sony's PRS-500 eBook Reader. Among those who have the consensus isn't all that positive. Our Barry Gerber disagrees with the naysayers.
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  1. I have been using this reader since November, 2006. I love the hardware. I pre-ordered it back in September, 2006. Its a pleasure to read from it when travelling. I don't have to charge it for a week. This is really helpful during travel.

    Almost all the PDF files are in 8.5X11 inch (A4) format. Unfortunately they can't be reflowed to 5.24 X 6.69 inch format. It is possible to use a Word template with 5.24 X 6.69 inch format. I have been using this technique to read Word documents on eBook reader.

    Sony will sell more hardware if it collaborates with mainstream online book sellers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Safari.

    I'm an engineer and its hard to find relevant titles in Connect online store.

    Maybe Sony is trying Apple's business model of iPod and iTunes combo to make zillions.

    My best guess is that Sony is running some form of proprietary OS on eBook reader. It would be great if someone writes a flavor of Linux for this eBook reader. I would like to collaborate with like minded individuals.

    Once we have worked on
    (1) Open source the OS on eBook reader
    (2) Automate reflow of PDF to 5.24 X 6.69 inch format

    it would become even more popular. Maybe in next generation of this device Sony will work on these needs or Open source community will come forward.
  2. I do not own a Sony EBook Reader but am quite intrigued by the technology.

    I am disturbed by reviewers who complain about the lack of a backlight on the PRS-500. These reviewers obviously have not done any research on the product they are reviewing and do not even realize exactly what they are looking at. The reason there is no backlight is because the screen of the PRS-500 is NOT and LCD screen. It is a revolutionary new technology licensed from a company called E-Ink. It works by having very small fluid capsules that also contain even smaller white and black particles that are oppositely charged. Electrodes underneath the screen create temporary electric fields that push one set of particles to the top and pull the other to the bottom creating either a white spot or a black spot. When the electrodes are turned off, the particles stay in place. This allows the screen to only use power when it changes its content. This contrasts with LCD that require power to keep the liquid crystals in the proper orientation as long as the images is being displayed. Besides lower power consumption, another benefit of the e-ink screen is that it looks very similar to printing ink on white paper and is much easier on the eyes for long periods of time than looking at an LCD screen. Since the e-ink is solid, a backlight makes no sense. It is hard for me to find technology reviewers credible, when they don’t even consider the technology.
  3. Well, I have been reading ebooks since 1999 on Palm PDAs and Pocket PCs after that. I have purchased hundreds of books in MS Reader format and eReader (formerly PeanutPress) format. My pocket PC phone allows me to read books in both of these formats. I am not very likely at all to switch to this reader because it does not recognize those formats AND is much too big for me personally. I don't want to lug around that large of a device. Just my opinion. Intriguing tech to be sure, but I will pass for the above reasons.
  4. I have to declare myself as a big fan of technology, and the wealth of alternatives that it offers us. However, I firmly believe the whole field of ebooks is, currently, bollocks.

    Recent technological advances have presented us with a plethora of new ways of enjoying a range of media. The rise of the iPod, and related devices have extended the range of a number of medias. It has also triggered a scisemic response from the content providers. Suffice to say that we are now all criminals unless Hollywood says otherwise. There is however, one industry that has stayed remarkably quite about this whole revolution. Book publishing or the print media in general.

    Why, because, unlike music and video, no one has found a better format than books.

    Books are subtle, tactile, markable, tradeable, prized, feared, censored, treasured, physical and many other things. Surprisingly, many researchers and academic studies have found that they are extremely 'fit for purpose'.

    What this means is that given current technology there isn't anything that does the job better that a book.

    PBS is right, reading to your child for 15 mins a day is a fantastic start, but I don't think an ebook version of the hungry cattapillar will ever work.

    One of the strangest outcomes of the technological advances of the last 30-40 years is that printed books are still by far and away the most commonly form of publishing new ideas disseminating imformation

    Proprietory text publishing systems have never florished in the past, and I can see no reason why they should now.

    Why should I pasy $£350 for a device that can not display the vast majoity of the books I'm interested in, or that my child wants to touch, read, or for that matter eat.

    Ebooks etc. may well florish in the future, but only when the technology offers something significantly better than is currently available
  5. The whole point of ebooks is mobility. I love the feel of a good hard cover book in my hands, but my bookcases and basement are full, full, full of these books. I still buy "real" books but my wife is constantly asking me to dispose of boxes of them which I find difficult but necessary to do. With my ebook library, I have access ALL the time wherever I am. Therefore, much of the time for me at least, the ebook does a much better job for my purposes than a handheld "real" book, thank you very much.
  6. I'm very interested in the development of electronic books but they are still nowhere close to what I want.

    I read lots of military history, the ability to instantly flick back to a graphic such as a map, or listen to the sound of a Jannisary battle tune (while reading about them), having hyperlinks to wikipedia etc or just be able to sit back and have the book read itself to me, is what I need before I fork out the dosh.

    An electronic book imo has to move the concept of a book into the 21st century, not just give me a rehash of ancient technology. Sony still has a long way to go.
  7. It is a nice step forward, but enough for me to buy one.
    If I can't import the PDF that I want to see and if is is not actual A4 format (20x30 cm) with a touch screen, it is not for me.
    IMO reading from a computer screen is a hazzle. There should be a hughe market for intelligent readers that are not UMPC's.
  8. Thanks for the review. I would have liked it if you mentioned the ePaper screen using the eInk technology a bit more. It really is the main reason to get this book. I've read thousands of pages and the screen is as easy to read as paper.

    There are many sources of eBooks apart from eConnect, which reward those who like to experiment. Project Gutenberg, Bittorrent, University sites that store ebooks in html or plain text format (most of the classics are not copyrighted any longer), to name a few.

    Here are a few tips, which nearly negate any of the format downsides the book has:

    1. Import plain text into Word, then use Auto Format and select Options. Then, remove Ordinals..., Fractions..., and Internet and Network...
    Then, Autoformat. You must do this for Project Gutenberg books because they use a Return for each line, which will cause problems with the reader.

    Set the font to 16 or 18 (I use Times New Roman font, but use what you can read easiest), and then Justify.

    Save as RTF and transfer to the reader.

    See the Wiki on this reader for more info.


    This program will allow very readable PDFs (use the default boldness options for Landscape or Portrait Modes), with some caveats.

    First, you must have autoimager installed, and if you can't find a free version, it is $60.

    Second, the program will autocrop the book, useful for PDF books you often find on the internet, but I recommend using Acrobat's (full version, not the reader) crop function, which works much better because you can remove unecessary titles which stay with every page and page numbers (redundant).

    Finally, the user interface is a bit primitive, but for those who have used DOS, or are comfortable in a command prompt, this won't be a problem. Also, this program was written by one person, so don't go bothering him with questions like, "How do I use this program?" Do the research.

    * To switch to landscape mode, without having to use the menu, hold down the size button for 5 seconds, while viewing the book.
  9. Lots of work to get readable books... Still can't convert proprietary eReader and MSReader books to their format, therefore it is useless to me. Sony was never about open formats, only their "special" codec or format such as memory stick, music codec, and now this. How many great Sony products have failed because of this thinking?
  10. Looks great, but not a dime goes to it until I actually get to try one out.

    One complaint: Why not two pages? I'd like one that 'folds' open and closed, like a real book. I'd get annoyed if I would have to turn the pages every 3 paragraphs..

  11. Toadkillerdog (great name btw - rah Black Company!) and the author of the article have both touched on the main issue: compatibility with other formats.

    The main problem with eBooks is intellectual property. Investing a large sum into a reader and/or proprietary formats of ebooks can be a dangerous game - the reader can be discontinued or changed, the formats can change or no longer be supported, etc. As long as firms keep working on proprietary formats instead of working together to make a really great open one, then they are hobbling their own investments.

    Also, while folks do accumulate a lot of books ( and I know - I own a brick & mortar used and rare bookshop - and am a former webmaster) the fact is they just may need to weed them down. Likewise ebooks can also accumulate on a reader, like files in a folder or desktop.

    However, unlike books of atoms (BOA), books of bytes (BOB) cannot really be resold. They can't always be shared. This is another ebook Int Prop issue. At least with BOA you can toss it over to a friend, or get money for another book you want, or put it at the shelf in the coffee room for someone else to enjoy.

    Codex books are an elegant technology. The upgrade path is non-existent. The readers are the texts. They are portable. While some researchers or techs do really need to have frequent or timely access to 10-30 texts, most folks don't. Paperbacks work well for that, and can be read with one hand.

    No, ebooks have not yet arrived. It'll be awhile and few billion bucks research and marketing down the road. My suggestion? read a good history of the book - one that talks about how codex books came to be, and why they work so well sociologically. Start with The Book on the Bookshelf by Petroski, a decent tech writer.
  12. I'm pleased you caught the Black Company reference - no one else has up to now. Glen Cook is one of the most under rated and creative authors in the business.

    I have never been able to give up the pleasure yet of holding a good hardback in my hands. My very favorite books I still buy in hardback for the tactile pleasure I get holding the book in my hands and having those old friends on the shelf.

    You are right. My proprietary ebooks will die with me unshared... My paperbacks eventually go to the used book store or are given away. My hardbacks stay with me for life and I (reluctantly) share them out to friends who will really appreciate them.
  13. Quote:
    Well, I have been reading ebooks since 1999 on Palm PDAs and Pocket PCs after that. I have purchased hundreds of books in MS Reader format and eReader (formerly PeanutPress) format. My pocket PC phone allows me to read books in both of these formats. I am not very likely at all to switch to this reader because it does not recognize those formats AND is much too big for me personally. I don't want to lug around that large of a device. Just my opinion. Intriguing tech to be sure, but I will pass for the above reasons.

    Same here. I started with PeanutPress and now eReader. I find the backlighted Treo 650 invaluable. I love it when I can read a book in the dark, under the blanket, without disturbing either my dog or my beloved. PRS-500 sounds interesting. but why buy, and carry, another piece of hardware when I have everything in a Treo?
  14. I was thinking of getting a Sony ereader and after trying out the demo I was impressed by how easy on the eyes it was. It would also save a lot of space since I can just keep everything in digital format instead of having to own so many books.

    I have 3 concerns right now.

    1) Content: I was disappointed by the content offered at the estore. There are a lot of titles that I just can't find so for me, the content is really lacking. I hope they improve on it and get more publishers to sign up and provide more literature. I think one of the major benefits of purchasing ebooks online is how easy it is. You want to read something, go find it online, purchase and download and you can immediately start enjoying it. However, the amount of content available on the estore is a big concern and a big deterrent for me in getting one.

    2) Estore Pricing: Another thing that troubles me is that some of the tiles I find on the estore is being sold by the list price of a the hardcover price even though paperback is available at the local stores. I check a title on the barnes and noble website and the paperback version sells for 3.99 currently but at the e-store the list price is 25.99 and the store is selling it at a discount of 15.99. I think that is a total rip off.

    3) Website: I had some trouble finding titles using the website especially when I'm searching for a particular series. For example, lets say there is a three book series with the main title being DragonSword. So we have DragonSword: The Ice Slaying; DragonSword: The Fire, etc. However, sometimes the main series title "DragonSword" isn't entered in their database so when I do a search for "DragonSword" only one book may show up for the entire series. I think they need to make it more user friendly and maybe an ability to search within the book description as well.

    But my biggests issue is points 1 and 2. Hopefully they improve because I can see the sony ereader becoming really popular if they do it right.
  15. Have been using the ebook reader for a couple of months. It does what it was designed to do very well. I am very happy with it.

    I travel a lot and this is perfect. The display is just a easy on the eyes as the printed page. The display size is same a a paperback book. It is really amazing. Since I don't read under the covers at night, I don't need backlighting. More importantly, I don't want the added weight of a battery that would provide that lighting. The heft of the reader is just right, my arm does not get tired and it is easily read from any angle.

    It is true that the selection at the Sony ebook store is limited, but it will grow. In the meantime there is a ton of free literature readily available from Proj Gutenburg and others sites that I am interested in reading.

    I also download reams of work related documents (in MS Word) to reveiw while traveling. This saves me from carrying a ton of printed material.

    There are some quirks to get used to. Page turning is slow, but faster than actually turning the page of a book. The reader is not well suited for quickly skimming through a thick document due to the slow, sequential page turning.

    I also agree that the reader is grossly over priced for what it does. But hopefully the concept will catch on, stimulate competition and lead to improved devices at better prices.

    I highly recommend it to anyone who does not expect an all-in-one gadget and can tolerate the price.
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